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A liberalisation of Irish social policy? Women’s organisations and the campaign for women police in Ireland, 1915–57

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

Christopher Shepard*
Affiliation:
School of Histories and Humanities, Trinity College, Dublin

Extract

For much of the twentieth century, Ireland was quite unusual in comparison with other western European nations in its exclusion of women from policing. By the time women were allowed to join the national police force, the Garda Síochána, in 1957, women were already established in the police forces of Britain, Germany and France, as well as that of Northern Ireland. Further afield, women were already employed in police forces in Poland, New Zealand and the U.S. The appointment of women police was a major demand of feminists, moral campaigners and social reformers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, all of whom sought better protections for women. As in the U.K., U.S. and many European countries, women’s organisations in the Irish Free State were to the forefront of the debate over the need for women police. Beginning with the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association (I.W.S.L.G.A.) in 1915, women’s organisations such as the National Council of Women, Joint Committee of Women’s Societies and Social Workers (J.C.W.S.S.W.), and the Catholic Women’s Federation campaigned relentlessly for nearly half a century in the face of governmental indifference and obstruction. When the first class of ‘experimental’ women police emerged in 1958 from the Garda training college in Templemore, County Tipperary, women’s organisations hailed it as a victory.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 2009

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References

1 See Brown, J., Hazenberg, A. and Ormiston, C., ‘Policewomen: an international comparison’ in Mawby, R. I. (ed.), Policing across the world: issues for the twenty-first century (London, 1999), pp 205-7.Google Scholar

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3 Needless to say, official attitudes towards women police were remarkably similar in both Éire and Northern Ireland until the outbreak of the Second World War. With most other U.K. regional police forces employing women, Northern Ireland’s Royal Ulster Constabulary (R.U.C.) was forced to accept women into its ranks. The deployment of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to Northern Ireland helped to change negative attitudes. For more on women in the R.U.C., see Cameron, Margaret, The women in green: a history of the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s policewomen (Belfast, 1993).Google Scholar

4 This article deals with the efforts of the National Council of Women, the Irish Housewives’ Association, the Joint Committee of Women’s Societies and Social Workers, and the lesser known, but equally significant, Catholic Women’s Federation.

5 Seanad Éireann debates, 4 June 1958.

6 Carrier, John, The campaign for the employment of women as police officers (Aldershot, 1988), p. 1Google Scholar. See also Woodeson, Alison, ‘The first women police: a force for equality or infringement?’ in Women’s History Review, 2, no. 2 (1993), p. 219CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The Women’s Freedom League was supported by a range of disparate women’s groups, including the Women’s Social and Political Union, the Criminal Law Amendment Committee, the Mothers’ Union, the London Diocesan Council, the National Union of Women Workers and the National Vigilance Association.

7 Carrier, The campaign for the employment of women as police officers, p. 11.

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9 See also Reilly, Eileen, ‘Women and voluntary work’ in Gregory, Adrian and Paseta, Senia (eds), Ireland and the Great War: a war to unite us all (Manchester, 2002), p. 54.Google Scholar

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11 See Irish Times, 2 Jan. 1915; Cullen Owens, Social history of women, p. 263.

12 Irish Times, 14 Jan. 1915.

13 Reporting on its work during the first quarter of 1916, the Dublin-based Irish Women Patrols Committee claimed responsibility for the conviction of six individuals for crimes, including ‘behaving immorally, or indecently, in the streets’. Irish Times, 15 Apr. 1916.

14 Quinlan, Genteel revolutionaries, p. 180. According to Quinlan, the last member, ‘Miss Elizabeth Watters retired in 1956’.

15 Beaumont, Caitriona, ‘Women and the politics of equality: the Irish women’s movement, 1930–1943’ in Valiulis, Maryann Gianella and O’Dowd, Mary (eds), Women & Irish history: essays in honour of Margaret MacCurtain (Dublin, 1997), p. 179Google Scholar. This date is significant because it corresponds to the introduction of a House of Commons bill requiring all municipalities in Britain to appoint women constables. See also Irish Times, 18 Nov., 14 Dec. 1925.

16 Seanad Éireann debates, 17 Dec. 1925.

17 See Irish Times, 8 Feb. 1926.

18 For more information on the committee chaired by William Carrigan, K.C., see Finnane, Mark, ‘The Carrigan Committee of 1930–31 and the “moral condition of the Saorstát”’ in Irish Historical Studies, xxxii (2001), pp 519-36Google Scholar. A list of witnesses that gave evidence is featured in appendix II.

19 For an account of the Legion of Mary and Frank Duff’s experiences in trying to clear the Monto (Dublin’s notorious red-light district) of prostitutes in the late 1920s, see Duff, Frank, Miracles on tap (New York, 1961).Google Scholar

20 Finnane, ‘The Carrigan Committee’, p. 524.

21 Irish Times, 27 Sept. 1927.

22 Carrigan Committee minutes of evidence, Dr Angela Russell, 18 July 1930 (N.A.I., DJ 90/4/5).Google Scholar

23 Carrigan Committee minutes of evidence, Mrs T. M. Kettle, 17 Oct. 1930 (N.A.I., DJ 90/4/5).

24 Report …on the Criminal Law Amendment Acts (1880-85) and Juvenile Prostitution, p. 40.

25 Carrigan Committee minutes of evidence, General Eoin O’Duffy, 6 Nov. 1930(N.A.I., DJ 90/4/5).

26 Unsigned memorandum regarding the Report of the Committee on the Criminal Law Amendment Acts (1880-5) and Juvenile Prostitution, 27 Oct. 1932, p. 14 (N.A.I., DT S5998). The government had serious doubts regarding the publication and enactment of the recommendations of the committee’s report because it included such sweeping condemnations of the moral state of the nation. The disbelief expressed by government officials should come as no surprise given that, just months before, Dublin hosted the 1932 Eucharistic Congress, which attracted over one million people to a special Mass held in the Phoenix Park.

27 Ibid., p. 14.

28 Smith, James, ‘The politics of sexual knowledge: the origins of Ireland’s containment culture and the Carrigan Report (1931)’ in Journal of the History of Sexuality, 13, no. 2 (2004), p. 209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

29 For more on the conditions facing women during this period see Luddy, Maria, ‘“A sinister and retrogressive” proposal: Irish women’s opposition to the 1937 draft Constitution’ in Trans. Royal Hist. Soc., 15 (2005), pp 175-95CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Beaumont, ‘Women & the politics of equality’, pp 186–8; Daly, Mary E., ‘“Oh Kathleen Ni Houlihan, your way’s a thorny way!”: The condition of women in twentieth-century Ireland’ in Bradley, Anthony and Valiulis, Maryann Gianella (eds), Gender and sexuality in modern Ireland (Amherst, 1997), pp 102-25.Google Scholar

30 Article 41 of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland relates generally to the family and education. However, since its insertion into the document, feminists have taken issue with Article 41.2.1, which states: ‘In particular, the State recognised that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved’. Article 41.2.2 continues: ‘The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home’. Hogan, Gerard and Whyte, Gerry (eds), The Irish Constitution(Dublin, 1994), p. 989.Google Scholar

31 It is important to note that, except for the 1936 Conditions of Employment Act, which enabled the government to establish quotas for female industrial workers, the majority of the legislation affected middle-class and professional women. These included the 1932 civil service marriage bar and the 1934 marriage bar on women National school teachers. Even the much maligned 1927 Juries Act, which automatically ‘exempted’ women from jury service, only affected a small proportion of women in the Irish Free State because of the property qualification for jury service. For example, in 1962–3, the property qualification meant that just 24,679 out of a total of 416,646 residents of Dublin city and county were entered on the electoral register. Second interim report of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure: jury service (Dublin, n.d.), p. 10.

32 The J.C.W.S.S.W. was very concerned with promoting the rights of women as citizens as well as with the legal protection of women and girls. See Beaumont, Caitriona, ‘Women, citizenship and Catholicism in the Irish Free State, 1922–48’ in Women’s History Review, 6, no. 4 (1997), p. 572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

33 Beaumont, ‘Women & the politics of equality’, p. 179. According to Beaumont, the J.C.W.S.S.W. was formed in March 1935 when concerned members from nine women’s voluntary organisations came together to discuss the government’s handling of matters affecting the lives of women and children, particularly in the wake of the 1935 Criminal Law Amendment Act. See appendix III.

34 Irish Times, 20 Apr. 1937.

35 W. R. O’Hegarty, secretary, J.C.W.S.S.W., to de Valera, 25 May 1939 (N.A.I., DT S16210).

36 Peter Berry, private secretary to minister for justice, to Department of the Taoiseach, 3 June 1939 (N.A.I., DT S16210).

37 Jackson, Louise, ‘Care or control? The Metropolitan Women Police and child welfare, 1919–69’ in Hist. Jn., 46, no. 3 (2003), p. 639Google ScholarPubMed. Metropolitan Police figures seem to contradict Berry’s assertion that women police were not making inroads into British police forces. Instead, they reveal that there were 155 women police officers employed in the London Metropolitan District alone during 1939.

38 Peter Berry to Department of the Taoiseach, 1 Nov. 1939 (N.A.I., DT S16210).

39 Stephen Roche to M. Ò Muimhneachain, secretary to the Department of the Taoiseach, 23 Nov. 1939 (N.A.I., DT S16210).

40 Report of the committee into the duties, organisation and strength of the Garda Síochána (N.A.I., DT S7989 C/2). The minister for justice, Seán MacEoin, was supposed to chair this committee, but asked Michael Deegan to do so on his behalf. Other members included T. Doyle of the Department of Justice, who acted as secretary, P. P. O’Donoghue of the Attorney General’s office, M. J. Kinnane, commissioner of the Garda Síochána, C. S. Almond of the Department of Finance and D. Costigan of the Department of Justice.

41 Ibid., p. 60.

42 Ibid.

43 Stressing this last point, the report added that it would actually be an advantage ‘to have a number of properly trained policewomen in the larger cities where … there must be a certain reluctance on the part of parents to hand over the investigation of such matters as assaults on young girls or children to male police who are comparative strangers’. Ibid., p. 61.

44 Irish Times, 20 Jan. 1955.

45 See appendix III for a list of organisations represented by the J.C.W.S.S.W.

46 Archbishop McQuaid to the Sodality of Mary, quoted in Cooney, John, McQuaid, John Charles, ruler of Catholic Ireland (Dublin, 1999), p. 87.Google Scholar

47 Vigilans, ‘What is in a name’ in Christus Rex, 2, no. 2 (Apr. 1948), p. 75.Google Scholar

48 Connolly, Linda, The Irish women’s movement: from revolution to devolution (Dublin, 2003), p. 125.Google Scholar

49 In 1949 the Roscommon Herald published an article asserting that the Irish Housewives’ Association was one of several Dublin-based organisations harbouring communists or ‘fellow travellers’. These allegations were later retracted after the I.H.A. instituted a libel suit against the Roscommon Herald. Connolly, The Irish women’s movement, p. 125.

50 Eileen O’Mara Carton (1897-1973) was a member of Dublin’s pre-revolutionary Catholic middle class. Her father, Joseph O’Mara, was the son of a wealthy Limerick bacon producer and became a relatively famous Irish tenor. After studying opera in Milan, Joseph O’Mara made a career out of performing in Britain, Ireland and America from 1891 until his death in 1927. His daughter Eileen married Fonso Carton (b.1885, ed. Clongowes), a cousin of Oliver St John Gogarty, and friend to Frank Flannigan and Frank Duff. Carton was a partner in Carton Bros. Auctioneers, based at 17 Halston Street, Dublin.

51 According to Eileen O’Mara Carton, these women, Miss Boyd and Miss Godfrey, organised a Catholic maids’ club near Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin.

52 O’Mara Carton to McQuaid, 30 Nov. 1953 (DDA, McQuaid papers, Lay Organisations, Catholic Women’s Federation).

53 Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19310515_quadragesimo-anno_en.html; accessed 2 Feb. 2008).

54 Evidence from the Armagh diocesan archives reveals that the Legion of Mary was often called on by gardaí to help them to deal with cases involving women and girls. See memorandum entitled ‘Women’s praesidia of the Legion of Mary, Dundalk Curia’ (Cardinal Tomás O’Fiaich Library, Armagh Diocesan Archives, Cardinal D’Alton papers, box 24).

55 O’Mara Carton to McQuaid, 30 Nov. 1953 (D.D.A., McQuaid papers, Lay organisations, Catholic Women’s Federation).

56 This was accomplished by, amongst other things, a ban on Catholics attending Trinity College, Dublin.

57 O’Mara Carton to McQuaid, 30 Nov. 1953 (D.D.A., McQuaid papers, Lay organisations, Catholic Women’s Federation).

58 McQuaid, 1 Dec. 1953, notes in the margin of a letter dated 30 Nov. 1953 (D.D.A., McQuaid papers, Lay organisations, Catholic Women’s Federation).

59 O’Mara Carton to McQuaid, 7 Jan. 1954 (D.D.A., McQuaid papers, Lay organisations, Catholic Women’s Federation).

60 These included women almoners and probation officers as well as representatives from industrial schools, the Catholic Social Welfare Bureau (C.S.W.B.), the International Catholic Girls’ Society, the Catholic Rescue and Protection Society, and the Catholic Social Service Conference (C.S.S.C.). For details regarding the formation of the C.S.S.C. and the C.S.W.B., see McMahon, Deirdre, ‘John Charles McQuaid, archbishop of Dublin, 1940–72’ in Kelly, James and Keogh, Dáire (eds), History of the Catholic diocese of Dublin (Dublin, 2000).Google Scholar

61 Koven, Seth and Michel, Sonya (eds), Mothers of a new world: maternalist politics and the origins of welfare states (London, 1993), p. 10.Google Scholar

62 C.W.F., ‘Results of discussion in C.W.F. on the subject of policewomen in Ireland’, 9 Feb. 1954 (D.D.A., McQuaid papers, Lay organisations, Catholic Women’s Federation).

63 C.W.F. memorandum on women police (D.D. A., McQuaid papers, Lay organisations, Catholic Women’s Federation).

64 O’Mara Carton to McQuaid, 20 Jan. 1956 (D.D.A., McQuaid papers, Lay organisations, Catholic Women’s Federation).

65 Ibid.

66 Minutes of the Municipal Council of the City of Dublin (Dublin, 1955), p. 34.

67 O’Hegarty, W. R., ‘The need for women police’ in The Irish housewife (Dublin, 1956), p 55-8.Google Scholar

68 Department of Justice memorandum, Nov. 1955 (N.A.I., DT S16210).

69 Department of Justice memorandum entitled ‘for the minister’s information’ (N.A.I., DT S16140). James Everett, minister for justice in the second inter-party government, used this strategy to evade questions in the Dáil regarding women police. See Dáil Éireann debates, 9 Feb. 1955, 24 May 1955, 9 Nov. 1955, 5 June 1956.

70 Department of Justice memorandum entitled ‘appointment of policewomen’, 16 Sept. 1957(N.A.I.,DTS16210),p. 2.

71 Ibid., p. 3.

72 Dáil Eireann debates, 22 May 1958.

73 Seanad Éireann debates, 4 June 1958.

74 Ibid.

75 Ibid.

76 Ibid.

77 See Murphy, Gary, ‘Interest groups in the policy making process’ in Coakley, John and Gallagher, Michael (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland (London, 2000), pp 271-93Google Scholar. See also Murphy, Gary, ‘The Irish government, the National Farmers’ Association and the EEC, 1955–64’ in New Hibernia Review, 6, no. 4 (2002), pp 6884.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

78 Department of Justice memorandum entitled ‘appointment of policewomen’, 16 Sept. 1957 (N.A.I., DT S16210), p. 2.

79 Papers of the Joint Committee of Women’s Societies and Social Workers (N.A.I., 98/14/7/1).

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